By Israel Abiodun
The National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association, HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko has apparently gotten a new lease of life. Those who may not know him well enough would be unaware that the enforced silence, seen on his part, in recent times has nothing to do with retreating for introspection, which would have been a good thing since that would have imposed a period of coerced reasoning on him, something he appears incapable of. The silence on his part is a manifestation of the power of hunger.
Those who know him are conversant with how such period of silence was dictated by the absence of a client to inspire Onwubiko to write misleading pieces or making rounds of the studio of media outlets where he performs as a talking head, a pseudo-expert in activism, albeit without the fair disclosure that his brand of activism is the one that can only be procured and activated by the abundance of lucre. The money comes in and Onwubiko starts chiming on loop like the sound of the bank alert that announced that his clients have paid for him to resume his mud slinging.
One would think that receiving money for his activism would at least prompt him to go out on a limb in an attempt to wrap the sewer cleaning job he does in some layer of respectability. That is however something he does not have capacity for. He is too given to ethnic bigotry to deliver something relevant and useful for his client in the hope that such will accidentally contribute to the public discourse on whatever he is being paid to muddle up. Note must be made here of the fact that Onwubiko’s contributions to national dialogue have only been belligerent, attacking individuals and organizations, without ever coming up with a constructive concept of how to deal with an issue.
This is the logical explanation for his recent outburst against the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lieutenant General TY Buratai, who Onwubiko picked offense against for highlighting the political facet of the criminality that appeared to have escalated in several parts of Nigeria. Perhaps at this point, a futile attempt should be made to educate Onwubiko, his lack of capacity to genuinely learn is not in doubt as he has on several occasions demonstrated that much. But efforts must still be made to highlight certain things, at least for the benefit of those that he is misleading.
Had he but stepped back and think about the situation without the impact of the dizzying ethnic bigotry that drives him, he would have noted, like other right thinking Nigerians, that the escalation of security breaches occured sharply in the weeks after the elections, which has been attributed to defeated politicians covertly supporting or sponsoring such criminal acts. Perhaps he knows the facts but decided to play the ostrich because admitting that failed politicians contribute to insecurity would amount to self indictment since these failures of politicians are not only his associates but are also the ones plying him with bread and butter to provide the energy for his keening.
It must be appreciated that while Onwubiko is not alone in being paid to criticize public office holders and critical national institutions, he seems to hold the record for being the worst ethnic bigot in his field, save for a couple of other hirelings from the southwest whose outbursts can be legitimately attributed to mental health issues and substance abuse. Onwubiko’s unacceptable ethnic bigotry is one that must be addressed for the very fact that it poses the risk of distorting the field in a manner that makes seeking non-violent solutions to Nigeria’s security challenges difficult, if not impossible. He has no right to create such problem for Nigeria, a country he loathes belonging to since he has severally expressed his preference for the defunct Biafra.
This is why it is unfortunate that he accused the COAS of all manner of things for being forthcoming about why banditry and other criminal situations persists in the same statement in which he accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila of ‘high treason’ for going on an exploratory visit of troubled places in Zamfara state in pursuit of peace building. Such conflicting response should remove every doubt that exists as to whether Onwubiko’s ethnic bigotry has destroyed the last shred of objective reasoning he is capable of.
Only such ingrained bigotry can make a man that supports a designated terrorist group, the Indigenous People of Baifra, IPOB, come out to speak as if Nigerians have forgotten where he stands on the unity of the country. He believes and support IPOB’s goal of partitioning Nigeria, destroying the country, so that some people can massage their lack of capacity for living in a multicultural country. Had General Buratai not been professional in curtailing and ultimately crushing IPOB’s criminal activities Nigeria would have become history and there would be no country for Onwubiko to rant about.
He regularly rants along these bigoted ethnic lines, which poses the risk that some people could be misled into believing his lies if they continue to be exposed to them without the record being set straight. Onwubiko is aware that if he repeats his lies often enough, people will still not believe him, but there is the risk of attenuation, whereby his irresponsible utterances become less jarring as people get used to them. This is a process of normalizing bigotry, something Onwubiko, or at least those using him, is aware of.
Normalization of ethnic bigotry is a development that right thinking Nigerians must not allow to happen. People of conscience must continually rise up to ensure that Onwubiko’s attempt to make bigotry the new normal is fiercely rejected, with him being put in his place each time he attempts to turn history on its head and make his own ethnic group appear dominant over the others. Those with the resources can attempt to rehabilitate him so that he finds other productive engagements to put food on his table, That way he would not have to pretend to be a concerned activist when in reality all that he wants to cater to are his pocket and perverted ethnic orientation. This is why HURIWA and Onwubiko’s normalization of ethnic bigotry must not be allowed.
Abiodun is a public affairs commentator based in Ibadan.